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54 Fahrenheit Above Average: Extreme Warming Event For Greenland, Baffin Bay Underway

At the mouth of Baffin Bay just off the West Coast of Greenland today hurricane force wind gusts are blowing in from the south.

This roaring invasion of warm air originates from the Central Atlantic along a latitude line south of the Azores. It climbs hundreds of miles north to where it is intensified between a grinding 975 mb low off Labrador and a massive 1042 mb high squatting over Central Greenland. Temperatures in this warm air mass range from near 50 degrees (F) over Southwestern Greenland to around 40 degrees (F) over the mouth of Baffin Bay. Or between 9 and 36 degrees (F) above normal for this time of year.

(Hurricane force wind gusts are driving a wedge of above freezing air into Baffin Bay and over Western Greenland at a time when these regions should be seeing well below freezing conditions. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

This warm wind driven air mass is expected to move north over the next 24 to 48 hours. It will steadily blanket both glaciers and areas typically covered with sea ice. And as it does so, it will push temperatures above freezing for large sections of both Baffin Bay and Western Greenland with above 32 F readings progressing as far as the Petermann Glacier.

What this means is that temperatures will likely hit record ranges of up to 54 degrees Fahrenheit above average in some locations near the far northern extent of this expected warm air invasion. Overall, Greenland itself is expected to see 15 degree (F) above average readings for the entire island. This will generate brief surface melt conditions for parts of Greenland during late November.

(Large region of 20 to 30 C, or 36 to 54 F, above average temperatures is predicted to blanket Greenland and the Canadian Archipelago after moving north through Baffin Bay over the next two days. Image source: Global and Regional Climate Anomalies.)

Strong warm air invasions of the Arctic at this time of year are a signal coming from human-forced climate change. As the northern pole darkens with winter, a global warming related phenomena called polar amplification ramps up. In addition, during recent years, we’ve seen warm air slots tend to develop beneath strong ridging features in the upper level Jet Stream. This year, the warm air slots have tended to form over the Bering Sea along the Pacific side of the Arctic and progress northward into the Chukchi. This has resulted in a large zone of ice free waters for a typically frozen region between Alaska and Siberia as warm winds and storm force waves have continuously beat the ice back.

The present warm air invasion for Greenland may be a signal that a similar warm air slot is attempting to develop over Baffin Bay going forward. Or it may be a fluke in the overall pattern. Watch this space.

UPDATE 11/29/2017: As predicted, temperatures over the Petermann Glacier hit above freezing at around 2200 UTC yesterday. According to climate reanalysis, temperatures for the region are ranging between 50-54 F above average in present model estimates for 11/29. In other words, the warm air invasion progressed as expected and resulted in above freezing temperatures for brief periods across Western and Northern Greenland.

Overall temperatures for Greenland are presently 15.5 F (8.6 C) above average in the models while the Arctic as a whole is 9.9 F (5.5 C) above average.

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97 Comments

  1. Posted supporting data in twitter feed here:

    Reply
    • Warming event happening as predicted:

      Reply
    • Associated high amplitude jet stream wave pattern:

      Reply
      • humanistruth

         /  November 29, 2017

        Lately the northern and southern hemisphere jet streams seem to almost form a network, with frequent interconnections across the equator. There’s even a kind of jet stream short cut across the Arctic the past two days. When Paul Beckwith posted about equator crossing,he was slapped down. What’s going on now is orders of magnitude more crossing, but nobody seems to mention it. Isn’t somebody doing research? It would be easy enough to write a program to quantify this phenomenon from earth nullschool data. It looks like a new climate regime to me. Isn’t a grad student doing dissertation work on this yet?

        Reply
  2. PlazaRed

     /  November 27, 2017

    Although the temps will drop over the next few days, the wind will continue mainly from the southern regions.
    Temps should normally be well below freezing at this time of the year.
    Forecast for Nuuk Greenland as of Monday night 27th November.

    https://www.wunderground.com/forecast/gl/nuuk?cm_ven=localwx_10day

    Reply
    • Good comment here, Plaza Red. Would like to add that the warm air influx is proceeding basically as predicted yesterday. I’ve posted some updates above that are likely to be helpful.

      OT. But lots of quality work from Grist this year. Supporting them. Asking others to do the same:

      Reply
  3. rhymeswithgoalie

     /  November 28, 2017

    Hail Pedantia!

    What makes a cyclone a hurricane is a *sustained* wind speed with higher speed gusts (i.e., bursts of higher wind speed). The phrase “hurricane force wind gusts” is the equivalent of a mixed metaphor.

    Reply
    • Ah, the ad hominem grammar nazi returns. I must have scooped someone in big media… 😉 Hopefully Joe Bastardi, Fox News and the like…

      Hurricane force is a term for wind speed that is separate from the qualification for named storm status. “Gusts to hurricane force” are a typical meteorological statement.

      And, yes, it is actually a technical term as well:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_force_wind_warning

      Maybe do a little research before making ‘foot in mouth’ statements about grammar and technical meteorological terms that you obviously know nothing about in an attempt to look more intelligent than you really are?

      Reply
    • In any case, we are happy to accept informed and well-intending criticism here. Especially from scientists and from scientific journalists. However, the above from an anonymous sock puppet is an example of its exact opposite.

      Reply
  4. Kassy

     /  November 28, 2017

    Strange translucent ‘sea pickles’ are washing up on beaches and experts are unsure why

    Residents of America’s west coast are baffled by the appearance of translucent jelly-like sea creatures washing up on local beaches.

    Beach-walkers have noted their growing presence on Pacific shores in recent months. Blooms of the tiny sea creatures were spotted off-shore earlier this summer but are now visible on land.
    We’ve had other critters of course but I don’t remember these guys and there’s just tons of them,” said resident Phyllis Ham to local station KGW.

    The organisms, known by scientists as pyrosomes, have an unusual pink appearance and are usually around 1cm in length. They are individually made up of hundreds of cells.

    Although harmless to humans their appearance has concerned the scientific community. Typically Pyrosomes appear in warmer waters but have now popped up in Alaska and other locations in America’s Pacific Northwest.

    The University of Oregon has conducted extensive research into the phenomenon and say a build-up of the organisms could be harmful to other sea-life. Last year researchers at the university videoed large numbers of the creatures floating in the sea but the appearance on the shore is far more unusual.

    “The one thing that might be of concern around here is that if there’s enough of these and they sink to the bottom, it could maybe cause a dead zone,” said marine biologist Jim Young.

    The creatures are likely to disintegrate over the coming weeks and could leave a rather slippery and smelly mess, say experts.

    http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/strange-translucent-sea-pickles-are-washing-beaches-experts-are-unsure-why-1649229

    Reply
  5. It’s not 54F!

    Reply
    • I’m sorry. The statement has little reference or context. What are you talking about?

      Reply
    • The anomaly range in the GFS climate reanalyzer is still showing the potential for 25 to 30 C positive anomalies. This = 54 F positive anomaly.

      Reply
    • It would help you if you understood the distinction between a base temperature reading and an anomaly.

      Reply
      • Thanks for your patience, Robert, those questions about the difference of anomaly and base temperature may be trolling, but they also may be genuine “not knowing”, and the answers aid those in the second group. And it was probably unintended, but the Celsius degrees mention was useful too. For me, it means that I don´t need to look what “54 F” means in an online convertion tool. 🙂

        Reply
    • Again. You’re missing the distinction between base temperatures and anomalies.

      From my article:

      “And as it does so, it will push temperatures above freezing for large sections of both Baffin Bay and Western Greenland with above 32 F readings progressing as far as the Petermann Glacier.”

      Reply
  6. So you’re adding up all the positive anomalies?

    Reply
  7. I’m not a scientist and would like an explanation

    Reply
    • An anomaly is a departure from average climatology. Average climatology is weather averaged over 30 years. This is how we get average temperatures for any given day.

      If the temperature is 54 F above average over the Petermann Glacier in Greenland tomorrow, it will be just a degree or two above freezing.

      If the temperature in London is 54 F above average tomorrow, it will be around 105 degree F.

      The forecast for London is not for 54 F above average temperatures. So it won’t be 105 F in London tomorrow. The forecast for the Petermann is that temperatures will be around 50-54 F above average tomorrow. So it looks like it will be above freezing there.

      Is this a good enough explanation for you?

      Reply
      • Robert E Prue

         /  November 29, 2017

        It was 29 degrees above average day after Thanksgiving here in Kansas

        Reply
    • Related to this comparison:

      From a Georgetown professor and energy and climate finance lawyer.

      Reply
  8. “between 9 and 36 degrees (F) above normal for this time of year.”
    So this is happening as I type?

    Reply
    • The 9 to 36 F above average temperatures were occurring yesterday when the article was written. At this time, temperatures are exceeding 20 C above average for western Greenland which is probably now in the range of 36 to 40 F above average (after conversion from Celsius to Fahrenheit).

      Reply
  9. Yes, that’s fine thanks.

    Reply
  10. wili

     /  November 28, 2017

    https://www.wunderground.com/cat6/2017-us-hurricane-damages-206-billion-highest-record

    2017 U.S. Hurricane Damage Estimate of $206.6 Billion: Highest on Record

    Reply
  11. Erik Frederiksen

     /  November 28, 2017

    William Nordhaus: ”A target of 2½ °C is technically feasible but would require extreme virtually universal global policy measures.” https://www.scribd.com/document/335688297/Nordhaus-climate-economics

    The NASA glaciologist Eric Rignot told me: ‘‘You can fiddle around and say, ‘It’s going to take a long time’ or ‘We don’t know.’ But even the most conservative people in our community will tell you: ‘We warm the climate by two or three degrees C? Greenland’s ice is gone.” https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/15/magazine/the-secrets-in-greenlands-ice-sheets.html?_r=0

    From the scientist that the MIT atmospheric physicist Kerry Emanuel described as the world’s foremost expert on the relationship of ice and climate, Richard Alley: “There’s momentum in the energy system, there’s momentum in the climate, we really are committed to that second degree fairly clearly already.” https://youtu.be/1IcPrEM2_p4?t=36m39s

    Reply
    • Present track is 3 C. 2 C is technically feasable. 1.5 C is probably not.

      2-3 C warming wouldn’t instantly melt Greenland. But it would put us in a temperature range in which rapid sea level rise was a higher risk. BAU is much worse.

      Limiting warming as much as possible by direct replacement of fossil fuels is imperative to the success of climate action. The next step would be follow on atmospheric carbon capture. The horse = cutting fossil fuel burning to nil as fast as possible. The cart = negative emissions tech as follow on. The driver for the horse = renewable energy.

      Reply
      • Erik Frederiksen

         /  November 28, 2017

        Richard Alley mentioned that the reason Greenland made it through stage 5e is likely not because the temperature wasn’t enough to melt it, but that it didn’t stay warm enough long enough to melt it.

        If you warm Greenland just past the survival rate, it might take 10,000 years to melt.

        If we burnt it all and made it stinking hot it’s more like 300 years.

        Reply
        • Pace of warming is also a factor. Which is why the present situation is so dangerous and difficult. But yeah, worst case burning = 300 is probably about right for Greenland.

          West Antarctica and Totten is probably in a similar boat on timeframe.

          Crossing 1.5 to 2.5 C this Century is likely, in my opinion, to risk SLR in the range of twice IPCC stated estimates or a bit higher. We are probably looking at 5-12 feet in all reasonable scenarios, IMO.

          If we respond rapidly and then get to net negative carbon soon, we might limit to 3-6 feet or closer to IPCC. Problem is, glaciers are already moving in a number of key regions. Warm water is already moving toward those glaciers. Some of the chain has already been set in motion. We may have already locked in 10-20 feet in the multi-century timescale.

          I hope this is not the case. But there is a lot of uncertainty.

        • Erik Frederiksen

           /  November 28, 2017

          Thanks, regarding, “300 is probably about right for Greenland. West Antarctica and Totten is probably in a similar boat on timeframe.”

          Perhaps less for the WAIS

          In a recent presentation https://youtu.be/WE9Gqy8Yy9w?t=41m50s the glaciologist Richard Alley said that things may be warm enough 50 years out (+/- 50 years) to start a rapid retreat of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

          How rapid? Here is Alley again.

          At Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica, “once you get off of the stabilizing sill, whenever that is in West Antarctica, the time scale of getting rid of the West Antarctic [3.3m GMSLR, 4m in the Northern Hemisphere], it’s not centuries, it’s multi-decadal. This is not maybe the best case, it’s not the worst case.”

        • Start is not finish. You get a loss of the lower than sea level ice first. Then a longer tail for the 20-30 percent remaining.

          If you count in responses from Greenland, Totten, and WAIS, that’s where you get your 5-12 feet range for this Century.

      • Erik Frederiksen

         /  November 28, 2017

        What do you think of Alley’s comment that we’re already committed to 2C? That would imply that the decades it will take to transition our energy sector mean further warming.

        Reply
        • If I’m understanding it correctly, that includes a best case emissions reduction scenario. Of course there are disagreements with regard to what’s feasible at this time.

          Paleoclimate shows 410 CO2 = 3 C warming long term. This implies 1.5 C this Century. 490 CO2e = approx 4 C long term and 2.0 C this Century.

          Higher levels of methane in CO2e number imply methane fallout post cessation of burning/mining in the range of 10-40 ppm CO2e. Ocean drawdown of CO2 post burning is approx 10-15 ppm. Fallout of other greenhouse gasses is more rapid than CO2.

          Net negative CO2 emissions post 2040 to 2050 also weigh in the negative side of the ledger. If 3.3 ppm CO2e scales down rapidly to 1 ppm CO2e over next 20 years, hits zero by year 35 and net negative by year 40 then, yeah, it’s technically feasible.

          That’s really threading the needle and doing a lot more than we see now. Of course, it’s also assuming milder carbon feedbacks.

          It’s possible that only 2.5 C is feasible in reality. And it’s possible that we do better and act very aggressively and hit 1.8 or 1.9 C instead. I suppose an accurate range of feasibility at this time is probably 1.7 to 2.5 C under very aggressive response scenarios.

      • Erik Frederiksen

         /  November 28, 2017

        Thanks for your responses. “If you count in responses from Greenland, Totten, and WAIS, that’s where you get your 5-12 feet range for this Century.”

        I wonder where Alley gets 20 from here?

        From a conversation held a few months ago with Michael Mann and Richard Alley. A few comments by Alley below.

        “If we don’t change our ways we’re expecting something like 3 feet of sea level rise in the next century, and it could be 2 and it could be 4 and it could be 20.

        The chance that we will cross thresholds that commit us to loss of big chunks of West Antarctica and huge sea level rise is real.

        So when you start doing “Well you’re not sure,” but there’s a chance of really bad things and the uncertainties are mostly on the bad side, could be a little better or a little worse or a lot worse, but we’ll be breaking things.”

        Reply
        • It’s not my understanding that Dr Alley is calling for 20 feet as a likely scenario by 2100. I think you could be mis-representing him here?

        • Erik Frederiksen

           /  November 28, 2017

          I just quoted him, I’m not sure how that can be misrepresenting him?

        • Erik Frederiksen

           /  November 28, 2017

          I never wrote that “Dr Alley is calling for 20 feet as a likely scenario by 2100” I merely presented his video and kindly provided a transcription.

        • Please give timestamp. If he’s talking about absolute worst case, that’s one thing. I was talking about likely scenario ranges.

        • Erik Frederiksen

           /  November 28, 2017

          The time is already included into the link. The journalist asked a quick question about the Larsen C and then Alley responds with the part I quoted.

        • Erik Frederiksen

           /  November 28, 2017

          “in the next century”

          In a recent presentation https://youtu.be/WE9Gqy8Yy9w?t=41m50s Alley said that things may be warm enough 50 years out (+/- 50 years) to start a rapid retreat of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. And on numerous occasions he’s said that once that starts the process is multidecadal, or less.

          Or less.

        • Yes. Well, I think that’s pretty clear from what we’ve seen in general. But that’s not the same as 20 feet of SLR.

          It takes WAIS, Greenland and Totten involvement to get to upper ranges in the 5-12 foot estimate.

        • Yep. Very clear that he’s talking about an absolute worst case scenario.

        • In other words, Alley is talking about ranges. He is not predicting 20 feet by 2100 as anything other than an absolute worst case. And if you asked him for a likely range, he’d probably hedge closer to IPCC number while acknowledging outside risks.

        • I think you do have a tendency to over-state what Alley and others have said. Which is why I’m clarifying here.

        • Erik Frederiksen

           /  November 29, 2017

          Apologies if I give you the impression that I over-state what Alley and others have said. The part I quoted was Alley saying we expect 3 feet, and it could be 2 or 4 or 20. I had asked you where he got his high figure of 20.

          I believe I am being misunderstood here.

        • Fair enough. Sorry if I misunderstood.

          I think the 20 foot number is what you get when you have very rapid releases from Greenland, WAIS and places in East Antarctica like Totten. The fact that this is an outside possibility is concerning. But it’s not a high likelihood. I think Alley would probably say that.

        • Erik Frederiksen

           /  November 29, 2017

          No problem. Thanks again for your reporting. I appreciate your work very much.

        • And I do appreciate all the references and in depth questions. It’s an emotionally charged subject for me and probably pretty much everyone else.

        • Erik Frederiksen

           /  November 29, 2017

          You have to admit that the +/- 50 year bit here is a bit disturbing: “Alley said that things may be warm enough 50 years out (+/- 50 years) to start a rapid retreat of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.”

        • Yes. It’s all disturbing. That’s why I’m so invested in rapid response.

        • Erik Frederiksen

           /  November 29, 2017

          Yes, as Rignot has said none of us has seen an ice sheet retreat before, so caution is advised.

        • Rapid response is certainly advised. IMO — necessary.

      • Jim

         /  November 29, 2017

        I like this. It succinctly captures Status, Consequences, and Necessary Action. If people understood this – and nothing else – we’d be heading to a better climate future.

        Reply
        • Jim

           /  November 29, 2017

          Placement of my post might be a bit confusing. I was responding to Robert’s post above that begins:

          “Present track is 3 C. 2 C is technically feasable. 1.5 C is probably not.”

  12. Bobinspain

     /  November 28, 2017

    Another excellent report. Thank you. I hope this isn’t too far off topic to seem flippant, but I’m finding this highly alarming. I thought it was a joke, at first, but evidently not. Thoughts or reactions anyone?

    Reply
    • Maybe a publicity stunt. I think some kind of expert group should decide whether or not this robot counts as self-aware?

      Reply
      • bobinspain

         /  November 29, 2017

        My thoughts exactly, Robert. I also have concerns about the stability and reliability of the software, given the well-known, but idiosyncratic messaging services I have to deal with on a daily basis 😀

        Reply
    • Robert E Prue

       /  November 29, 2017

      Maybe would be a good designated driver

      Reply
      • bobinspain

         /  November 29, 2017

        +1 Robert. I was wondering if she’d be any good at dealing with leaky Spanish drains, as there’s a storm on the way 😀

        Reply
  13. Erik Frederiksen

     /  November 28, 2017

    “Notably, the acceleration in ice sheet loss over the last 18 years was 21.9 ± 1 Gt/yr2 for Greenland and 14.5 ± 2 Gt/yr2 for Antarctica, for a combined total of 36.3 ± 2 Gt/yr2. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2011GL046583/full

    The NASA glaciologist Eric Rignot said recently that this acceleration in mass loss already puts us on pace for a meter of SLR by 2100.

    Richard Alley has said that Antarctic Ice Sheet mass is likely controlled by the temperature of the water at the grounding line of marine-terminating glaciers.

    Parts of Antarctica are minus 50 degrees C, warm it up to minus 45 and big deal, but it is at the melting point at the coast where thinning ice shelves provide less and less friction to ice sheet flow.

    A rise in temperature of just 1 degree C took out Jakobshavn’s ice shelf in Greenland.

    Not only are we warming the ocean, but increased westerlies linked to global warming are apparently moving already warm water into contact with Antarctica’s ice shelves.

    Reply
  14. Allan Barr

     /  November 29, 2017

    One has to wonder just how clathrates are holding up under such temps?

    Reply
    • Erik Frederiksen

       /  November 29, 2017

      Robert may be able to answer this better than I can, but Richard Alley has said it’s not very likely that we’ll soon see massive methane belches from the North changing the world. Too many check valves. Think of it like a Zombie that comes for you slowly, but perhaps inexorably.

      Reply
      • Allan Barr

         /  November 29, 2017

        CO2 comes first then CH4 then additional CO2 then additional CH4, I would not be sanguine about Clathrates, guess we shall see.

        Reply
    • No indication presently of major changes. Overall, the larger carbon feedback is currently coming from the tropical land masses according to the major atmospheric monitors with more coming in the form of CO2 than CH4 at present.The Arctic is a secondary feedback hotspot at present. But concern is moderate to high that feedback from thawing landmass will ramp as temperatures approach 2 C. Ocean clathrate feedback does not at this time appear to be moving the needle much. We do get situational ocean emissions from certain regions. Some of these may be related to climate change, some may not. The overall forcing compared to the larger system from these sources is presently small.

      Reply
    • In any case, here is the daily surface monitor and analysis based on your question.

      Reply
  15. Greg

     /  November 29, 2017

    Heroes:

    Reply
    • Pasander

       /  November 29, 2017

      When a climate scientist has a title “Lead Catastrophe Modeler”, I think everyone should get worried..

      Reply
  16. Greg

     /  November 29, 2017

    Oh and one more:

    Reply
    • Allan Barr

       /  November 29, 2017

      Really handsome man, and a wonderful brain. If I was female I would be interested.

      Reply
  17. PlazaRed

     /  November 29, 2017

    The cold jet stream dipping over the cental US and rising over the east coast of the US is not going to help things as far as ice growth is concerned in early December.
    Image for 7-11th December, hope it links OK.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5160a3db16b91b0b71e1c11e033eca8ea67e1dd8f041547592aa88643181e51c.jpg?w=800&h=446

    Reply
  18. I could not believe Good Morning American weatherperson reported that the USA is abnormally low on snow for this time of year and that Hawaii just had a large snow storm..So sad the weather reporter do not inform citizens of science/weather/climate..Just a few words would help

    Reply
  19. Robert in New Orleans

     /  November 29, 2017

    Reply
  1. Heat wave scorches Greenland up to 54°F warmer than normal – ThinkProgress - PoliSpin
  2. Monster heat wave reaches Greenland, bringing rain and melting its ice sheet
  3. Fall Heat and Cold Diary… November 28-30, 2017 – Guy On Climate
  4. MORE CALIFORNIA WILD FIRES, AND ANTARCTIC STRANGENESS...

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